A lack of composure in front of goal cost Team Taranaki their unbeaten record this season in a top-of-the-table Federation Football clash at Pukekura Park yesterday.
Team Taranaki created plenty of good scoring chances, but still lost 1-0 to Wanganui Athletic.
Against the run of play, Athletic grabbed a late chance to break the deadlock, despite the River City side having scrambled to keep in the game for the majority of the second half.
Livewire centre forward Josh Smith latched on to the ball from a cross and rifled it into the back of the net with four minutes left.
Team Taranaki captain Scott Manson had a chance to level the score two minutes later, but opposition goalie, Nick Hayward, was up to the challenge and pulled of a brilliant save.
The final whistle ended a game that was both scrappy and frustrating to watch as both sides battled to gain ascendancy.
Cynical fouls marred a good part of the first half.
The free-kicks were evenly shared, but referee Ian Robinson copped plenty of backchat from players and the sideline over some of his rulings. He carried on unfazed.
Some fouls looked worthy of at least a yellow card, but Robinson kept them in his pocket throughout the opening 45 minutes.
In the second half both teams settled and got on with playing the game.
Team Taranaki can look back on the game as one they should have won.
They lost their leading goal scorer Vinnie Sharp with a hamstring strain after being brought down in a tackle with 20 minutes left.
Jaden Taylor came on in the midfield and Hayden Murray moved forward.
Murray's tricky on the ball play together with Domenico Squatriti's slick play proved a handful for the Athletic defenders, but it counted for nothing in the end.
It is not all bad news though for Team Taranaki. The composite side remain top of the table, and five points ahead of closest rivals Athletic, who have a game against North End in hand over the leaders.
Team Taranaki coach Ian McGrath took yesterday's defeat on the chin.
"It's a bit of a cruel blow, but you give a player of that quality [Josh Smith] even half a yard and he's capable of finishing and he did.
"The disappointing thing was that we created three or four very good chances in the last 20 minutes and our composure let us down. We should have taken at least one of them.
"In the end our lack of ability to score cost us."
Team Taranaki are at home again when they take on lowly Palmerston North Marist Reserves at Pukekura Park on Sunday.
- Taranaki Daily News
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